Have you ever had one of those moments when someone is talking to you but your brain completely shuts down with your eyes and mouth wide open? You know, when you look like someone just performed a lobotomy on you, except of course, you don’t have saliva dripping out of the sides of your mouth…or maybe some do.
At the age of 44, I knew that I would struggle with learning German. But when words started flying over and on the side of my head, eyes bulging out to concentrate on the teacher’s words, and all I could grasp was one word every 15 seconds...well, I knew then just what I was in for.
Yesterday was my first German lesson. I showed up with two pens, some paper, bottled water and my German/English Dictionary my friends at FINRA bought for me when I resigned. Thank you FINRA friends! That dictionary helped a lot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shuffle through the pages fast enough before the teacher directed her attention to me, pointed her finger and asked, “Wie heissen Sie?” Deer. Headlights. Me. So she repeated, “Wie heissen Sie?” Now I kinda remember some German words and grammar my Love taught me, so I shuffled through memory on the third time when the teacher asked, “Wie heissen Sie?” and then she pointed to herself and said, “Ich heisse [teacher’s name].” She looked around at others and said to me, “Deutsch? Nein?” I’m thinking, “Of course I don’t know German, that’s why I’m here.” Then she says, “Anglish?” I said, “Ja!” hoping she was going to explain in English what she asked. But I wasn’t so lucky. The Bangladesh guy next to me knew itty bitty English and said, “Name.” English! Relax. Me. I responded with Denise Baer. She looked at me and asked, “Bier?” which I’m sure she thought that’s how I spell it. I nodded and then she asked, “Wie heissen Sie?” (What are you called?) and then pointed to me, “Ich heisse… “ (I am called… ) and I said, “Denise Baer”. Then I had to say, "Ich heisse Denise Baer."
And that’s how the class started with one Afghanistan, four Polish, one Romanian, two Bangladesh students and the American. Frau teacher went around the room asking, “Wie heissen Sie?” and each one responded, “Ich heisse [their names].” I was able to relax while the others had to respond, except many of them didn’t seem to struggle as much as the American. I only got a few minutes of relief before Frau teacher directed her attention to me again and asked, “Woher kommen Sie?” Deer. Headlights. Me. My body tensed, my face scrunched up in word agony, and then the Bangladesh guy said, “What country?” Ah! I know this one. I responded with Ooo. S. A. Frau teacher said, “Oo.Es.Ah. Ich Komme aus Oo.Es.Ah.” I repeated.
This language torture went on for the entire class...and we were let out earlier because she wanted to work from the book that only one guy had. We only learned a few questions and words, but it took that long for all of us to understand what was being asked, and how we were to respond.
For the rest of the class, Frau teacher called upon the American, used the American’s name often (maybe because she had trouble pronouncing the other names, or I’m the first American she’s ever taught) and at one point, even said “Perfect!” to the American regarding pronunciation, when the American had to ask another classmate questions. Wie heissen Sie? (What are you called?) Woher kommen Sie? (Where you come from?) Wie alt sind Sie? (How old are you?) Wie lange sind sie in Deutschland? (How long you been in Germany?) I was in Germany the shortest amount of time…Seit drei Wochen. (Three weeks).
Even the end of class wasn’t much release because all eyes were on the American when Frau teacher pointed to the book we need for class and asked, “Ja?” I shook my head and she handed it to me. I started writing down the name of the book while everyone watched and listened as Frau teacher asked me a question and Bangladesh guy responded in English, “Your man German?” and “Is man come here?” I let them know in English that my man was German, he wasn’t coming to pick me up and I have the book information and will get. When I responded, “Danke Schoen” to the Bangladesh guy, Frau teacher clapped and said, “Ja!” I guess she felt something sunk in today. I waved good-bye with a simple “Tschüs”. Thanks, Bangladesh guy.
This is what I can expect every Dienstag (Tuesday) and Donnerstag (Thursday) from 6:00 to 8:30 pm for 10 weeks. I should have gotten a prescription for Valium before entering Germany.
Foreign Language and Phonetic Fumble,Bea